Nigeria’s president has apologised for sacking the governing bodies and vice-chancellors of 13 universities, after it emerged that he had overreached his authority.
Muhammadu Buhari faced widespread criticism in February when he ordered the creation of new leadership teams for the National Open University of Nigeria and 12 federal universities that were established by his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan.
Many of the new vice-chancellors were “friends and cronies” of the president, Nigeria’s Coalition of Civil Society Groups said.
The Nigerian government has now rescinded the dissolution of the governing bodies, after learning that they were the only people with the power to appoint vice-chancellors, Lagos’s Vanguard newspaper reported.
The governing bodies will be tasked with appointing new vice-chancellors, the newspaper said.
However, the ruling is not expected to mean that the old vice-chancellors will get their jobs back. As reported at the time, the contracts of nine of the university leaders had expired and were simply not renewed.
Speaking in Abuja, Mr Buhari asked university leaders to “bear with us as we reflect on where we found ourselves”.
“We gave a blanket order which we had to rescind when we said all boards are suspended or dissolved,” Mr Buhari was quoted as saying. “We had to go back and lick our vomit in terms of university boards because we found out that according to their laws, they cannot choose vice-chancellors unless the boards sit down [and] interview prospective candidates who wants to be v-cs.
“So, there is nothing wrong in saying sorry and going back on your decision.”
The CCSG had described Mr Buhari’s original decision as “a gross violation of the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which guarantees universities’ autonomy”.